Ibm and the Holocaust

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Date Submitted: 05/06/2010 11:12 AM

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IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST by Edwin Black LITTLE, BROWN 2001 20.00 [pounds sterling]

Someone please put this book online. Why? Because this is history for the information age. In a sustained assault on the world's first information transnational, Edwin Black has shifted the spotlight of corporate activism away from sweatshops and ecological destruction and on to the greatest human crime of the 20th century -- systematic genocide. And he has done so with all the savvy of the wired generation.

As every revisionist knows, the pursuit of history invariably begins with questions that really concern the present. Black, who gawped at an IBM sorting machine in the Washington holocaust museum, wanted to find the connection between the shiny modern computing brand of today and yesterday's horrors in Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen. By assembling the data, he answers the question that has bothered so many historians: how was the holocaust so efficient? Answer: just like today's corporate criminals, Hitler had IBM computers and IBM software tailor-made to carry out the task.

On one level, this is the story of a profit hungry corporation `dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities ... self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can be done, it should be done'. But significantly, unlike the companies that built the bombs and designed the gas chambers, IBM escaped detection because its product, information, was invisible to the old economy -- and to later historians.

In an era long before NASDAQ, Hitler understood that an arsenal of data properly applied was the essential counterpart to bullets and brown shirts. Smelling profit, IBM (`the solutions company') schemed and lobbied to become the preferred operating system of the Nazis. And IBM provided the software, knowledge and analysis that ultimately kept the ovens fed. As IBM's technicians ensured that every Jew, homosexual and gypsy was categorised, tracked and ultimately rounded up, they also...